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Movie Review: Alex Cross

Perry 'Cross'-es over capably in fair thriller
Alex Cross
Genre: Thriller
Running Time: 101 min
Release Date: 2012-10-19
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By "Lawrence Toppman"
The Charlotte Observer

Except for a cameo in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot, Tyler Perry has never acted in a movie he didn’t direct. So the main reason to see “Alex Cross,” a prequel to the Morgan Freeman movies about the psychologist-detective, is to find out if Perry’s capable of carrying such a project.

The answer: Yes. Although in this case, that’s not much of a burden. The mid-quality, surprise-free thriller delivers generic goods competently but doesn’t tax anyone’s skills.

The plot about high-profile murders in Detroit seems to hold together as it rolls along but becomes ridiculous when explained. The villain behind these slayings should fool absolutely no one. (You’ll identify the culprit even if you don’t speak English and spend half the movie in the bathroom.)

Yet there’s just enough genuine emotion to connect us with the characters, whether we watch Perry as the quietly dogged Cross or Edward Burns as his lifelong friend and investigative partner.

The producers cast welcome actors in small roles: Jean Reno as an industrialist, Giancarlo Esposito as a well-dressed gangster, Cicely Tyson and Carmen Ejogo as Cross’ mother and wife, John C. McGinley as the inevitably craven police chief. Every time one of them popped onscreen, I felt like a thoughtful waitress had freshened up my cup of decent diner coffee.

Matthew Fox, who has lost weight and gained an attitude, plays the bullet-headed slayer who thrives on others’ pain. This part couldn’t be less interesting or stereotypical, yet his rabid, steely presence suits the no-nonsense tone.

Director Rob Cohen shoots believable action sequences, too. Nobody jumps the gap between skyscrapers or falls 40 feet, then gets up and runs away. But his obsession with hand-held cameras brings on attacks of nausea: During one scene where a cop simply speaks on a telephone, the camera trembled so frantically I thought the cinematographer was having a stroke.

The script is by Marc Moss, last credited on the Cross film “Along Came a Spider” in 2001, and newbie Kerry Williamson. They adapted James Patterson’s novel “Cross,” so I can only wonder who’s responsible for dialogue such as this: “I’ll meet his soul at the gates of hell before I let him take another person I love.” (Man, is Nic Cage jealous!)

On the other hand, it’s hard to knock a movie where Alex Cross folds the edges of a drawing together to create a new image and find a crucial clue, the way kids have done for decades with the covers of Mad magazine. If Perry can pull that off without laughing, he’s definitely a decent actor.

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10/18/2012 - The Charlotte Observer - Lawrence Toppman

Tyler Perry plays a detective chasing a psychotic assassin who menaces his family. Generic, but passably done.

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